There is something mysterious and attractive about darkness; we are drawn by the darkness in ourselves and others. In the context of this article, I use “darkness” to describe depression and emotional issues rather than various personality types such as narcissism or sociopathic tendencies.
Creative people oftentimes get attached to their darkness, especially if they use it to draw inspiration for their work. No, I’m not suggesting that people are going out of their way to feel depressed. If you’ve struggled with depression for a long time, there is something familiar and comforting in it in a way that is not even conscious.
Lots of people I meet see a strong link between depression and the level of their creativity. Some reason that it is, in fact, depression that feeds their creative side, that creativity is not theirs and rather a byproduct of their depression. I’ve met lots of people who give depression the credit for their work.
Depression and the fear of losing your creativity –whether you are aware of it or not- keeps you trapped inside yourself because it blurs your senses. This is an almost universal fear common with creative types and I don’t think it is something learned. Yes, depression has been linked with creativity but there is no cause and effect at play.
There is a good explanation why you think that without depression you’ll lose your creativity; if you understand what depression is and how it manifests, the answer surfaces. Low self-esteem, feeling isolated and alone, feeling empty, and the diminishing self-confidence they all contribute to your inability to see your worth, to take credit for what you do, and even feel guilty when something goes in your favor. All these strong emotions leave you feeling like depression truly IS all you’ve got. You question your talents and your vision because you feel the way you do about yourself, and reason that you’re not talented or capable of creativity alone and that it must be depression’s doing. In the end, you have convinced yourself that talent and creativity are born out of misery and darkness and you’re able to maintain them only through negative emotions.
You wear your darkness/depression as a label or as a badge. You identify yourself with that image and then you become it. It becomes part of who you are and what your work is about. In fact, it can become such a big part of your life, that the possibility of change becomes inconceivable and even unwanted. It’s hard to project yourself into the future and imagine how you could live or be who you are without your darkness. The future feels distant and unknown, creativity unable to exist without the dark cloud that follows you everywhere. The present, you know it and you live it; it feels terrible (at times), but it’s a feeling you’ve come to know despite how deep you experience it and how much pain it puts you through. It’s a tough crossroads to be at.